JAY, 25, is a recipient of Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada scholarship funding and TELUS’ Mobility for Good™. He also received support from the Friends and Loved Ones Fund. He is currently enrolled in the Child and Youth Worker program at College Boreal. He is also an advocate for transgender youth, speaking out to encourage those facing the same struggles he has faced. Entering foster care as a teenager after a conflict with his adoptive family, he entered a temporary care agreement, returned to his parents’ care, lived in an all-girl group home, and eventually lived with a foster family until aging out of care to live independently at age 18.
Read his story below:
*The opinions and views expressed in this article are that of the youth in profile, and not necessarily reflective of the official opinion or position of Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada.
“A worker told me ‘there are a lot of individuals who are scared to come out.’ And this is the reason why I am speaking out, because I feel for those kids.”
“My care experience was rough. The biggest challenge I had was that I identify as transgender and, unfortunately, my entire course of being in care from age 14-18, I was told it was just a phase. I faced a lot of homophobia. [At one point] I was living in an all-girl group home. I was so stressed and so anxious because I wasn’t being heard and I tried to advocate. ”
“I faced [social] stigma at school: I was called [names] and I was [labeled] a “bad person” because I was in foster care. A lot of my friends’ parents wouldn’t let me over because I was from the care system. I had teachers who didn’t understand what it’s like to be in the care system and stuff like that. So, I just decided that I was going to drop out of school, which I did. The good part about it is that when I turned 20 I was able to go back to school and not face that stigma anymore because I was just Jay, I wasn’t “Jay in foster care”, I wasn’t “Jay the different one”.”
“[W]hen I turned 16, I became a Crown Ward and it was really scary because I didn’t know what the future entailed. [The] transition from living with my parents, to living in a few different foster homes and group homes when I turned 16, to showing up at my new foster mom’s place, [made me] really anxious. I actually didn’t even bring my stuff from my worker’s car into my foster mom’s house because I was so anxious and scared. Within half an hour her words were, “I love you no matter what, handsome.” I didn’t tell her that I was trans, but she knew, and that brought me from anxiety to success.”
“In life, you need to have one person who’s going to believe in you. If you don’t have that one person, your success rate is lower. If you have more than one, that’s fantastic. But you need to have someone who really cares and has your best interest. [One worker I had] helped many young people in care to be themselves. She influenced so many people, she influenced me, and she really pushed me to be who I am today. [Another] worker told me “there are a lot of individuals who are scared to come out.” This is the reason why I am speaking out, because I feel for those kids. There are many young transgender individuals in the care system who are scared. I’m very out about who I am as a person, it doesn’t bother me saying Jay is a former youth in care and is trans.”
“I was really lucky to receive two scholarships from Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada. This really helped me pursue [a Child and Youth Worker program]. If it wasn’t for the Foundation, I don’t know how I would go to school because I wasn’t able to qualify for OSAP. I didn’t qualify for any of that stuff.
“The Foundation’s Friends and Loved Ones Fund helped me to go to visit family out of town for Christmas and it was the greatest moment of my life that I couldn’t have done financially by myself. I was able to do so many amazing things with my family, like exploring Ottawa and Montreal.”
“There were some months where I couldn’t even pay my bills. TELUS’ Mobility for Good™ program helped me to connect with the world. I was able to connect with my youth in transition worker, I was able to connect with outreach workers in and around [my city]. I don’t know [the city] all that well, so I’ve been able to navigate and use the phone’s GPS.”
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada. The Foundation has allowed me to grow personally and professionally. They’re there to support you in any way, shape, or form. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Toronto or if you live in Vancouver, they are there for you.”
“Youth in care deserve a chance. They don’t deserve to have a stigma related to them. Every time I call the Foundation it’s, ‘How can we help you get your goal, what can we do?’ That in itself speaks volumes.”